10 blunders that could spell the kiss of death to your new business idea

A husband and wife both enjoyed the same hobbies and started a small business based on what they loved doing. They were experts at what they did, knew how to market their products and enjoyed excellent customer relationships. But they failed at business planning, not calculating the amount of tax that was due and so had to close the business within a year.

A grim reminder of small business obituaries. Stories about start-up and small business failures abound. Over the past three years we’ve all seen many businesses go to the wall. Some surveys estimate that more than 50% of small businesses fail in the first year and 95% fail within the first five years.

Before you commercialise your brilliant idea check out some of the biggest mistakes below that businesses typically make. The mistakes are based on research by credit organisations as well as small business surveys that look into the main reasons why businesses go belly up.

The majority of businesses cite economic reasons for their failure. But at the same time up to 90% of all business failures can be traced to management mistakes.

Here is a list of 10 of the biggest mistakes that businesses make that often lead to their demise unless pre-emptive action is taken. Continue reading “10 blunders that could spell the kiss of death to your new business idea”

What you need to know about age and innovation

Ideas at any ageA reader asked me this great question a week or so ago:

QUESTION: I’ve read about all these innovators below the age of 30 forming new businesses, mobile apps and Internet businesses. What chance has someone got if they are older? Is it too late after a certain age to innovate?

CHESNEY: Right off I’d say that age doesn’t matter at all. But at the same time who’s going to argue that youth doesn’t have a strong head start? Especially when it comes to energy and drive. And the reason why so many young people are making it especially in the online world is because they have grown up with the technology.

Continue reading “What you need to know about age and innovation”

Business owners with new ideas – better check this out

Shower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Ideas you have in the shower are rarely what the market wants.” – Quote from a discussion on entrepreneurs

Should those ideas that pop into your head while in the shower, driving to work in the morning or listening to your favourite music on your iPod be so easily dismissed as the quote implies?

The answer is probably yes if you decide to take your white-hot idea from the shower straight to a cut-throat market even if it’s some unlikely tucked away niche. Continue reading “Business owners with new ideas – better check this out”

From idea to product – make it easy on yourself

Growth emerges from small beginningsIn 1996 McDonald’s introduced its more sophisticated Arch Deluxe burger which was marketed as a “burger with grown-up taste”. The burger came with peppercorn bacon, served on a potato flour sesame seed bun, with lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese and a secret mustard and mayonnaise sauce.

The $100 million ad campaign flopped. Why? Most people go to McDonald’s for a quick bite – a tummy filler. They don’t see McDonalds as a purveyor of gourmet meals.

Examples like this go on and on. Many large companies have suffered new product failures – just think of Apple, Pepsi, Coke and the motor vehicle companies. Continue reading “From idea to product – make it easy on yourself”

Innovation in the media – too little too late?

Tabloid Tycoon
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Visiting the city of Cape Town I was surprised to see its afternoon newspaper transformed into a tabloid after packaging itself for 155 years in broadsheet format.

The maiden editorial shouted “Here’s the future” with loud protestations that the newspaper would not become a frothy “tabloid” but a sober “compact”.

Yet you had to thumb through a feature lead story on the front page and several more feature pages until you came across a few news bites tucked deep inside the middle.

Mainstream, traditional media are in a frenzy to innovate because they are bleeding from online media. Today’s wired generation has a short attention span and is addicted to social media. Even companies are battling to know their shareholders, who buy online and are shareholders for as little as 24 hours.

Why is all this important to small business people? How does it relate to the business? I’ll come to that in a moment. Continue reading “Innovation in the media – too little too late?”

What if… you never read this blog post?

the google earth view of cbr city
What if you could be seen from Google Earth? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Asking what-if questions can help spark new ideas but you’ve got to ask the right ones. Right ones? Shouldn’t you let rip and come up with anything? Well, you might get ones like this:

What if you stand outside your house and look straight up for at least a year or so – would you appear on Google Earth?

What if you were a hotdog and you were starving, would you eat yourself?

Perhaps these what-ifs could get you thinking with a new perspective. But will they? No they won’t, I hear you say. You’re right. Why is that? Let’s see:

What-if questions help you see the ordinary in a new light, to gain new perspectives. The ideas that result from “what-if” questions are merely seeds that may spark explorations into areas that you have never thought of before. Asking “what-if” questions is unlikely to present you with a practical idea that you can implement right away.

You need to ask further questions that lead to new ideas. The initial “what-if” question is really only a springboard to get your imagination working.

Now, listen up. What comes next may surprise you:

A man ran a small service station and a restaurant outside of town on the main highway to Florida in the United States. He concocted a seasoning for fried chicken. He made a “nice living” until they changed the highway into the Interstate system and the new road bypassed his business. Colonel Harland Sanders was 66 years old, looked at his $105 Social Security cheque and decided what if he used the money to try franchise his chicken recipe. What if he were to take 5 cents from a chicken just as Mr Woolworth had built up his business with his five-and-10-cent stores?

From a simple idea – a what-if question – he launched an international fried chicken franchise that spread worldwide.

What “what-if” questions could you ask yourself?

Here are some that could get you started coming up with your own:

What if you could do something that would make your customers laugh so they feel happy buying from you?

What if you were a product, what product would you be and why?

What if you were a service, whose problems would you solve and how?

What if you were a search word on Google, what would you be?

What if your new product was a woman, what would she tell other women?

What if your competitor created your product, what would they do?

What if you could anticipate the needs of your customers before they even know it?

Try some what-if questions yourself. See how many you can come up with. It’s not as hard as you may think. Write down 20 of them and select your best three. Take these three and see how you can expand them.

For example, the first question may lead to: what if we make customers feel welcome when they make first contact with your business whether it’s off-line or on-line? What if we shipped their products so quickly to them that they felt thrilled by our service? What if we sent customers a thank you note telling them how delighted we are with their purchase and that if they have any questions or problems, they can contact us immediately? And when they do, what if we received their complaints with a smile?

To use what-if questions effectively, you need to be imaginative as possible but remember that they are merely a springboard to further questions that are relevant to your business. They can provide you with valuable insights into how you could launch new products and services and improve those that you already have.

Hooked yet on what-if questions?

Try out some of your own and see where your inspiration leads you.

What if you came up with a hot new business idea for a product or service?


Stay inspired.

Chesney Bradshaw


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Now new business ideas and tips weekly

A woman typing on a laptop Français : Une femm...
Small business people are hungry for new ideas in this market (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve suddenly realised that I haven’t let you know that www.ideaaccelerator.co.za has gone weekly.

We’ve got so much to talk about and share.

Like new business ideas, tools and tips on how to solve business problems.

The first quarter of this year is nearly over and we’ve covered:  Continue reading “Now new business ideas and tips weekly”

Break this brainstorming rule and better ideas explode

Brainstorm (Photo credit: TheImageGroup)

Innovation is about challenging even long-standing, tried and tested or cherished beliefs. But are we really prepared to throw out the window what we know and try something new?

Take brainstorming. For years brainstorming meetings have been held where there are grave warnings that no criticism is allowed. The no-criticism rule has been sacrosanct to encourage participants to open up and offer their ideas in a friendly atmosphere.

Well, researchers have turned this long-held belief on its head. They’ve introduced debate and criticism into experimental groups and found that debate provides unpredictability that fosters or produces more and better quality ideas. Continue reading “Break this brainstorming rule and better ideas explode”

Do all these idea generation techniques really work?

You’ve got every right to be skeptical.

Here’s why:

Every day ordinary people come up with ideas. They fix things in their homes, they find ways to reduce their expenses and they get ideas to make delicious suppers.

At work they find new ways to do their work more effectively, write e-mails and proposals and figure out clever methods to cut costs.

Now, why would they want techniques and methods to generate ideas? Continue reading “Do all these idea generation techniques really work?”